Barcelona welcome Villarreal to the Camp Nou in their penultimate home game of the season on Wednesday.
The Blaugrana have already secured their 25th La Liga title but could still finish the campaign undefeated – something which has yet to be achieved in Spain’s top division.
Villarreal, on the other hand, would confirm their Europa League place with a victory. El Submarino Amarillo are currently sixth in the table but, with just three games left of the season, have six more points than seventh-placed Sevilla who are in freefall.
The visitors will be heading to Catalonia with confidence having won their last three games, but face the toughest possible test on Wednesday.
Having met on 39 occasions, unsurprisingly, it is Barça who have the better record with 22 wins, compared to Villarreal’s eight. The last time Javier Calleja’s side managed to take anything away from the Camp Nou was back in the 2009/10 season.
After Real Madrid had lost 3-0 away to Valencia in the evening prior, Pep Guardiola’s side knew that a victory would seal the league title. Seydou Keita’s deflected strike gave the hosts a perfect start to the game, but the lead lasted just 10 minutes when Joseba Llorente converted Giuseppe Rossi’s cross for the equaliser.
Samuel Eto’o put the table-toppers back in front, before Dani Alves’ well struck free kick just before the break seemed to give Barca complete control.
With just 15 minutes of the second half left, the game looked to be heading towards a celebratory end – until a controversial call to award the away side a penalty. Eric Abidal was adjudged to have brought down Llorente in the box and was shown a straight red. Matias Fernandez stepped up to smash the spot kick home.
The carnival atmosphere around the stadium quickly subsided as Villarreal pushed for an equaliser. With the final whistle edging closer, the noise around the stadium started to pick up once more, but only to be completely silenced in the second minute of stoppage time.
Just as Blaugrana looked to be holding on for the victory, but the Camp Nou was silenced in the second minute of stoppage time. Llorente, for his second goal of the game, chipped a sumptuous effort over Victor Valdes and the game ended 3-3.
The point, nevertheless, left Barça eight points ahead of Real with just three games remaining, and Guardiola’s side were crowned as champions soon after.
Barcelona Home Form
Unsurprisingly, the champions have the best home record in La Liga with 14 victories and three draws from 17 matches. With one goal fewer compared to rivals Real (who have played one game more at the Santiago Bernabeu), the Catalan giants are second in home goalscoring charts having scored 47 times (2.8 per game).
At the other end, they have conceded 10 goals (0.6 per game) and have the second best defensive home record behind Atletico Madrid.
Villarreal Away Form
Villarreal have the sixth best away record in La Liga with six wins and seven losses from 17 games. They have scored 17 times away from home (1.0 per game), while at the other end they have conceded 21 goals (1.2 per game).
They recorded their last away victory in early March, when they defeated now-relegated Las Palmas 2-0 at the Estadio Gran Canaria. Since then, they’ve suffered a disappointing defeat away to bottom side Malaga, and drew to Sevilla in their last away outing.
Barcelona will be without versatile midfielder Sergi Roberto after he received a straight red for lashing out at Marcelo in Sunday’s Clasico draw with Real Madrid.
The visitors will welcome back Jaume Costa to their squad. The 30-year-old defender has made 28 league appearances for the club so far this season, but missed the last three fixtures due to suspension.
Javi Fuego could also return after missing the wins against Celta Vigo and Valencia, but long-term absentee Bruno Soriano remains out.
Barcelona Potential Lineup: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Coutinho, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez
Villarreal Potential Lineup: Asenjo, Mario, Alvaro, Victor Ruiz, Rukavina, Rodrigo, Trigueros, Raba, Castillejo, Cheryshev, Bacca
Barcelona may have already secured the title, but Ernesto Valverde will want his side to continue their unbeaten streak.
They concede too few and score too many to lose against a Villarreal side, who have already lost seven on the road and failed to beat Barca in the reverse fixture.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-0 Villarreal